Take control of your student loan before it takes control of you

Having to pay back student loans is overwhelming, but it doesn't have to take over your life. Learn how to tackle your student loans so you can finally be in a debt-free zone.

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  • You have it all planned out. After graduation, you will seek for employment in your field of studies, get married and start a family of your own. As soon as you receive your first student loan bill, those plans begin to shift. The reality sets in. How does one manage to pay back a loan of such magnitude with no job or with a job that is barely making ends meet, let alone start a family?

  • While in school, our main goal as students is to focus on our studies toward our degree. Many of us are not thinking about how we will repay our student loans. It may come up in conversations, but we have no financial plan in place.

  • My mentality was, I had enough time to worry about repayment. The truth was, time was passing me by very quickly. I was juggling between assisting a family member financially and paying my bills. I stumbled the first few months with my student loans and made the minimum payments. Unfortunately, the majority of the minimum payment was applied to interest rather than the principal. At that point I knew I had to do something.

  • If starting a family is part of your future plans, call your loan officer and ask for an approximate amount. Consider including your student loans in your budget while in school instead of waiting for the first bill to arrive.

  • I had a discussion with a good friend who graduated college a year before me and who had two kids at that time. She instilled in me some good ideas on how to pay back.

  • Defer payment

  • . This is beneficial for two situations: if you do not have a job, or, if you do have a job, but do not have enough to start making payments. If the bank grants you a deferment, that is the perfect opportunity to save as much money as possible or to find employment. Just because you have the green light to defer doesn’t mean you will worry about the bill later. Take advantage of the deferment period. I deferred once because I was changing employment, and I was able to save a few thousands toward the loan. It helped reduced the amount significantly.

  • Budget

  • . The same way you include the car loan, the mortgage, the water bill and so forth in your budget, include your student loans. Do not treat it as a separate bill. If it is feasible, consider paying more than the minimum toward the loans and cutting back on expenses, I was able to pay double the amount. Plus, I used a certain amount from my savings.

  • Reduce spending habits

  • . Cutting down on unnecessary expenditures is a sacrifice, but worthwhile. For example, if you are invited to a bachelor or bachelorette party out of town or to expensive dinners with friends, perhaps you should consider not going and use that money toward your loan. Refusing an invite to a party or dinner sounds silly, but actually it is not. You will save a good amount of money. I turned down several invites and sacrificed buying new gadgets for myself so I could save that money. In other words, purchase what is needed and not what is wanted.

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  • Planning how to repay your student loans while in school is an important step to clearing your debt. By planning ahead, you will not have to put a hold on starting a family and you will increase your chances of living a debt-free lifestyle.

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Mayra Colón is a freelance writer, former independent author and avid reader. She holds a MBA from the University of Phoenix and completed the Freelance Writing and Selling Online course from Rutgers University of Arts and Sciences.

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